Lighting is everything. This familiar axiom is known throughout the world of film, except for action sports where, for the most part, the concept of lighting has taken a back seat to capturing the big moments. Action sport aficionados have attached GoPro, and other brands of high-resolution micro video cameras to their surf boards, to their helmets and almost anywhere else to capture a dynamic angle. Unfortunately, the lighting is often less than desirable and great moments are sometimes lost when bright backgrounds or blinding sun puts the subject in silhouette or deep shadows. Enter Knog and their new [qudos] LED light.
Melbourne, Australia based Knog, a company known more for their quality bicycle lights, than video accessories, designed the [qudos] light specifically for the GoPro Hero line. Although the [qudos] can be utilized with Sony, Garmin and other small video cameras in the action category, the [qudos] is born with a GoPro conversion mount baked right into its aluminum chassis. In addition, Knog developed a specialized GoPro tandem mount, which allows a Hero 2, 3, 3+, 4 to be mounted side-by-side with the [qudos]. Very savvy.
So what made Knog jump into the portable video lighting market? “We’re fans of video and photography, with a few in-house, quasi-pro photographers amongst our team,” revealed Knog founder and CEO Hugo Davidson. “So we’ve been watching the rise of GoPro with great interest and the omission of a light was blindingly obvious to us. The dual use of the light on a DSLR was designed as a fun bonus, but the response from photographers has been overwhelming.”
The [qudos] kicks out up to 400 lumens of light from its diminutive 31 x 70 x 40mm frame, which is also waterproof down to a claimed 40 meters (more on this later). The insanely well-built light is constructed from die-cast and CNC machined aluminum, which also acts as a heat sink. Three XB-D Cree LEDs are stacked on top of each other; the top two having a “Wide” lens pattern, used for Ambient Mode, the bottom sporting a “Narrow” pattern for Target Spot. When all three LEDs are employed, Knog refers to this as Action Sport mode.
The [qudos] contains a removable and rechargeable 3.7v 1000mAh Lithium Polymer battery that takes a little over four hours to charge via the included USB cable. Unfortunately, a wall charger is not included, a trend we’re noticing in many recent product releases. However, our evaluators found an iPhone wall wart worked just fine. The translucent back features four different indicators, three light modes: Action, Target and Ambient, plus a battery icon for long term storage mode.
Kudos To The [qudos]
With such outstanding performance for a Version 1.0 product, we asked Davidson how the [qudos] came to fruition. “We had a strong base in our BlinderROAD bike light, which was roughly the same size as the [qudos] needed to be. But just like our bike accessories work to improve the bike experience, we did extensive prototyping and then research to ensure we understood how this would improve the action camera experience,” Davidson recounts. “But we don’t think function is much fun without form, so we also made sure that the light complemented the GoPro’s famous aesthetic. The six settings – Ambient, Target Spot and Action Sports (hi and low) – are designed to match the GoPro’s various screen widths – so if you see large areas of darkness in the corners of your film, try altering the [qudos] or the GoPro settings. Plus, logically, the higher power, the more effective for subjects far away, and lower power for getting up in people’s face. (If that’s what you’re into). Lastly, a key criteria was price. We knew that we needed to get under US$120 because people are already shelling out hundreds for their other kit, and there’s nothing with our power (400 lumens) at this price.”
For the underwater evaluation, the [qudos] was tested in the Gulf of New Mexico in about 20 feet of salt water where it was left in the high-output, Action Sports mode until it ran out of juice at 54 minutes. The water certainly helped with heat dissipation, but our evaluator was impressed at the “the endurance of the little [qudos].” A thorough washing with fresh water afterwards is always recommended after any water activity.
Another evaluator used the [qudos] as a auxiliary light with a Hero4 during his family’s annual Thanksgiving Day touch-football game. “The [qudos] made a great impact on the overall quality of the home movie by adding just enough light on the overcast day to pop each participant out of the background.” The [qudos] also got an unexpected crash test when the camera operator was abruptly upended during a kickoff return and the Hero4 and [qudos] sailed into a tree. Both the operator and the gear were unscathed.
Finally, the [qudos] was taken on a snowboarding trip and utilized in a terrain park action video. Even with temperatures at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the [qudos] performed “without any problems” and “outlasted the Hero4’s three battery changes.” In typical Vermont fashion, a -4 degree day was followed by 35 degrees and pouring rain. No problem for the [qudos] with its water-resistant housing. Again its outstanding performance provided plenty of light to showcase the riders during “selfie maneuvers” in the terrain park. At the end of the day when riders were comparing videos, the cuts with the [qudos] stood out from all other footage with the quintessential lighting accent to highlight and “3D the riders from the background.” When other GoPro owners were informed of the very reasonable $119 price point, the immediate questions was “were can I get one of those?”
Considering Knog has positioned the [qudos] in the action category, we subjected the [qudos] to a punishing drop test at the end of our evaluation. We allowed the [qudos] to plummet six times from a height of 5 feet (average handheld height) on a painted cement floor, allowing each side of the [qudos] to be impacted. After each plunge, the [qudos] was thoroughly tested in all light modes for three minutes. Despite the aluminum housing getting a little chewed up from the cement meet’n’greet, the unit’s internals were undamaged and worked without a hitch.
With such a phenomenal video product right out of the gate, what’s next for Knog in this category? “[qudos] has been a very successful launch in terms of sales and reviews,” CEO Hugo Davidson reveals with pride. “We are regarded as the benchmark in action video lights. But we have also just launched our [expose] smart light for iPhone. And later this year will see a range of additional smartphone lights. I can’t give away too much right now, but the studio is buzzing with all sorts of new toys, and we will be developing products beyond the [qudos] range for action cams and the [expose] range for smartphones – in the near future.”
The Knog [qudos] costs $119 and is available now.
The Future: We’d love to see Knog develop some additional mounting options, not only for the GoPro, but also for other small camcorders and DSLR cameras.
FutureFilmmaking Rating: 100%